Penn Program on Democracy, Constitutionalism and Citizenship; Corporations & Citizenship Series: The End of Finance: Financial Market Activism in Post-3/11 Japan. (Hirokazu Miyazaki)
Penn Program on Democracy, Constitutionalism and Citizenship; Corporations & Citizenship Series:
"The End of Finance: Financial Market Activism in Post-3/11 Japan."
Speaker: Hirokazu Miyazaki, Cornell University
The global financial crisis stemming from the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage markets has had a profound effect on financial professionals and their engagement with their financial expertise worldwide. For example, there is widespread sentiment among Japanese financial market professionals that the era of finance in which financial professionals and their expertise are highly valued has ended. On the one hand, it is clear that the kind of innovation and intellectual excitement that led to the expansion of credit derivatives is unlikely to gain momentum again in the near future. On the other hand, the current acute sense of profound uncertainty facing Japan and elsewhere seems to demand precisely the kind of technique for embracing and dealing with uncertainty that finance has long ostensibly represented. In this paper, I offer an ethnographic glimpse into this predicament confronting global financial market professionals in Japanese financial market specialists’ competing responses to the crisis of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in the aftermath of the nuclear power plant accident that followed the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. The focus of my analysis is the tension between the collective market effort to protect TEPCO and its bond holders in which TEPCO was deemed “too big to fail,” in the names of victims of the accident as well as of the Japanese financial system, and the sporadic effort to arbitrage TEPCO bonds, in the name of reforming the Japanese financial system altogether. What was striking was the way both sides shared deep skepticism about the efficacy and validity of their financial expertise and resignation that TEPCO, and the entire national economy, would certainly sink, albeit preferably slowly. The paper examines financial market professionals’ unexpected agreement to embrace the end of finance and its implications for the critique of capitalism.
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